Rick Desorda, beloved husband, father, brother, teacher, and friend to many, many people, died suddenly on January 2, 2021. He was born in Burlington on June 3, 1953, and during the first six months of his life lived at St. Joseph’s Orphanage. He was adopted on Christmas Eve 1953 by Barbara and Francis Desorda, and spent his life in Bristol, Vermont, graduating from Mt. Abraham Union High School in 1971, where he participated each year in soccer, basketball, and baseball.
With a strong desire to be a teacher, Rick graduated from Johnson State College in 1975 with a degree in History. He began his teaching career at Mt. Abraham in September 1975, retiring in June 2014. Along the way, he also completed a Master’s Degree at Castleton State College. Rick loved working with “the youth of America,” as he called his students, and because of this he continued working with teenagers after retirement by officiating soccer and umpiring baseball, right up to the time of his death.
Rick had a quick wit and left us laughing almost nonstop. Hardly a disciple of fellow native Vermonter Calvin Coolidge, he was uproariously talkative, with a great sense of comic timing. His ability to distill someone’s or something’s essence into an incisively exact phrase gave rise to hilarity in and out of the classroom. His sense of humor included satirical notes, but his ribbing was directed at himself as much as at anyone else. He was also kind, thoughtful, compassionate, and patient. He is sorely missed, and those who love him are devastated by his death.
He not only loved working with his students, he respected and learned from them. He prized critical thinking, good writing and articulate discussion, independence, hard work and initiative. His unfailing efforts to encourage students to express themselves clearly and thoughtfully inspired students to meet and exceed his high expectations. A great storyteller, he brought the past into the present with vivid descriptions and fantastic analogies. The spontaneity of his humor, his glee at watching students recreate moments in history, his collection of Newsweek magazines detailing the entire course of Watergate, his love of books—all these deep enthusiasms and interests coalesced into an unforgettable presence, an unforgettable teacher. And his greatest joy was to oversee the immediate and recurring experience of a classroom full of laughter, open discourse and genuine insights from his students. He had faith in the ability of every young person, without respect to background or disposition, to change in positive ways and to demonstrate integrity and intelligence. Students responded by giving him equal respect and love. If you were in his class, you were privileged to be included in a true community of scholars. The train of former students down the years who love and appreciate him attest to his indelible mark.
Family was very important to Rick, and he was the best husband and father anyone could ask for. He leaves behind his wife, Sandy, and his three sons, Bill, Joe, and Jim. He is also survived by his sisters Laurie Darling (Ed), and Cindi Smith (Creighton), his mother-in-law Kay, his brothers-in-law Bob, Tom, and Ed, his sister-in-law Laurie, and several nieces, nephews and cousins. A few years ago, he connected with his birth siblings for the first time and is survived by his birth brother Rodney and his half-sister Kathy.
If anyone would like to make a donation in his name, his two favorite charities are the Have-a-Heart Food Shelf in Bristol and Homeward Bound in Middlebury.
A private Mass for Rick will be held on Saturday, January 9, but because of Covid, only family and close friends are able to attend. A post-Covid memorial service will be held at a later date.